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4 Brass Goldweight Geometric Asante Ghana African Art

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Title Brass Goldweight Geographic Asante Ghana African Art
Type of Object Goldweight
Country of Origin Ghana
People Asante or Ashanti
Materials Brass
Approximate Age Unknown
Dimensions Diameter 2-3.5 inch
Overall Condition Good

Additional information: Goldweights have been called "masterpieces in miniature" reflecting artistry in service to commerce. The weights are not gold but were used in the trade of gold. Until the end of the nineteenth century, gold (sika) was the currency of the Asante, Fante, Baule and other Akan peoples of Ghana. Used in trade with European merchants along the Ivory coast or Islamic traders from the north, gold dust was measured on small scales called ‘nsania’ using small copper, bronze or brass sculpted weights known as ‘abrammo’. Most people engaging in trade owned a set of weights ranging in appearance from small geometrically patterned weights to complex figurative and representational weights.

Cast in the ‘lost-wax’ technique these small sculptures served to facilitate trade while depicting Akan values characterized through proverbs or popular sayings. Weights would carry traditional proverbial lore or simply show people in everyday activity or comment upon social and political relationships, or to reflect upon religious acts and spiritual ideals. Humans, animals, fish, amphibians as well as objects of everyday life were apt subject for representation in weights. Representational imagery derived from contact with Europeans includes ships, rifles and cannon are also found in weights. Gold weights are some of the best known examples of Akan arts reflecting their artistry in small scale but carrying great meaning. The Lost Wax Method is an exceptionally labor intensive process where a wax mold is formed by hand over an open fire until mold is exactly as intended. The wax is then dipped into very fine powdered black mud several times; being allowed to harden between applications; and forming a clay casting around the mold. The clay is then heated until wax melts and is poured out of its casting. Finally, molten brass is poured into the casting replacing the old wax mold. The clay is then broken away from the brass; leaving a solid brass ornament. Each piece is individually made. No two are exactly the same because the mold is broken in the process of making the piece.

Recommended reading: For more information, see Plass's AFRICAN MINIATURES-GOLDWEIGHTS OF THE ASHANTI.